At ten years old, most of us were exploring the outdoors, riding bikes, and maybe playing with dolls or legos. However, today’s guest was busy growing his family’s business; Perkins Orchard. Join us as we interview Donovan Alexander Watson about the importance of buying local, supporting local farmers, and connecting the community with farm fresh produce.
(Click the featured times below to jump forward in the episode)
Things You Don’t Want To Miss:
Meet Today’s Guest.
00:42 – Donovan Alexander “Alex” Watson is the owner and CEO of Perkins Orchard. It’s a family business he took over when he was just ten years old. Perkins Orchard is that largest and oldest fruit stand in Durham, North Carolina. Alex transformed his grandfather’s fruit stand into a full-fledged business. He’s here to share his story.
The Alex 101.
4:08 – Alex’s grandfather started Perkins Orchard started as a roadside produce market in 1970. However, his grandfather also pastored the Apex First Baptist Church, and around 2004, he started a divinity school within the church. The fruit stand proved to be too much work, and Alex’s grandfather had almost closed it down when Alex stepped in to run the business. At the time, Alex was 10 years old, and he handled everything from inventory and finances to customer service. Fast forward to 2013; Alex tore down the original fruit stand and expanded it to a three-acre operation.
Painting A Picture.
6:34 – Perkins orchard sits just off of Barbee Road in South Durham, North Carolina. As you turn off the main road, a gravel driveway gives way to a sprawling three-acre outdoor market. They work with three hundred farmers in twelve states, and they’re about to begin their 49th season in business.
Keeping Others In Business.
9:50 – Perkins Orchard works to keep other family farms in business. Alex began writing checks to producers when he was 15, and as Perkins Orchard expanded, their producers were able to buy more land, grow more crops, and provide for their families. Many of these farmers are local to North Carolina. They also contract with Chiquita, Del Monte, Welch’s, and Sunkist. Their goal is to support local farmers while also providing customers with produce that isn’t native to our state.
The Perkins Orchard Story.
14:48 – Alex’s grandfather started Perkins Orchard 49 years ago. At the time, there were several neighbors who operated various produce stands off of Barbee Road. It was a suburban area of Durham, and many folks sold produce out of their front yards. Perkins Orchard started with just a couple of tomato boxes. It was never meant to be more than a hobby. It was a respite from the stress that came with being a pastor, and Alex was blessed to transform it into a business.
Hitting The Road.
22:32 – In addition to running the business, Alex is constantly on the road picking up produce. Many of the pickups happen in Raleigh, but you’ll often hear of Alex hitting the road for South Carolina or Florida to bring in fresh produce. He says the thrill of waking up before dawn to meet his farmers runs in his blood.
Lessons From The Orchard.
25:18 – Alex finds there’s a certain camaraderie in his relationships. He relies on his farmers to take care of his customers and provide them with a high-quality product.
Connecting With The Community.
33:30 – Alex makes it his mission to impact the community with his business. He seeks to educate people on why it’s important to buy locally, he partners directly with farmers, and he makes it his goal to provide produce that’s superior to other grocery store products. Perkins Orchard even hosts other local vendors and tries to connect with the community via community events. One year, he made artificial snow and invited the community to come out for hot chocolate and football. He says it’s his way of building relationships with others.
A Fun Fact About Alex.
39:00 – He dreams about becoming a meteorologist. He shares his passion for tracking snow as well as his high school hobby of sending out weather reports.
The Vision For Perkins Orchard.
40:26 – Alex is currently immersed in several small projects including expanding the parking lot for customers and adding plum trees by the business’ 50th season. His long-term goal is to open a brick-and-mortar farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Durham that features local meats and produce.
Getting To Know Our Guest:
42:23 – Alex shares his little-known love for Katy Perry, and unpacks how he might survive solely off of watermelon from his fruit stand. He expresses his desire to glean wisdom from former President Barack Obama.
Donovan Alexander “Alex” Watson is the CEO of Perkins Orchard. His grandfather, Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Perkins, founded Perkins Orchard in 1970. It started as a simple roadside stand with tomatoes & cucumbers, but Dr. Perkins soon after began planting plum trees, apple trees, pear trees, peach trees, and grape vines all along the property.
Alex took over the business from his grandfather in 2004 at the age of ten. He steadily built the business, and in 2013, Alex and his family expanded Perkins Orchard across their five-acre property. He wants to connect the community with local produce and educate people about the importance of supporting local farmers.